Many of the anti-racists who have demanded an uncompromising response to the allegations of racism against John Terry and Luis Suarez will come to regret getting what they've asked for. This controversy also has implications for people with little interest in football.
I'm not sure we'll ever see all of the evidence related to these incidents, but I'm fairly certain that neither were simply one-way racial slurs. In both cases, we've seen clumsy claims in mitigation against a backdrop of an opaque process. The reputation of professional football, it seems, requires the hearings to be conducted in private while the sentences get handed down in public.
With the facts that we have, it's hard to understand why Liverpool FC are going to such lengths to demonstrate solidarity with Suarez. This may partly be because we don't have all the facts and Liverpool players have some that we don't.
I'm not going to make the case that the sentences that have/will be handed out are harsh or disproportionate. I can't know that. But I'm fairly sure that, in another workplace, this would be done differently. The result may have been more lenient or more harsh, but it's fairly clear that it'd be different.
The contrast with the (admittedly botched) justice that the alleged killers of Stephen Lawrence will receive is a useful comparison here, on the day that the judge started summing up with a stout defence of the fair trail.
Here's my problem with this: High-profile people now appear to have been given a semi-constitutional status. Transactions that they're involved in have to combine an institution-saving opaqueness with the requirement to set an example.
It's more important that justice is seen to be done than that it's actually done. There's a parallel here in the way that it seems to be the settled view of almost everyone - even at the Leveson Enquiry - that someone who puts themselves in the public eye then loses certain privacy privileges.
It seems that justice - in the cases of people in the public eye - seems to be based upon what sentence the public will understand as being appropriate once they've seen a simplified version of events. This applies to footballers and general celebrities. It also applies to politicians, civil servants and other political players. It applies to anyone that newspaper proprietors and editors want it to apply to.
It reflects an increased willingness to pander to the demagogic demands of The Hive Mind. It gives a more mundane expression to some of the observations in Charlie Brooker's very good 'Black Mirror' series (especially the 'National Anthem' episode).
Decisions that affect us all are being made in the same way. Sharon Shoesmith's treatment at the hands of Ed Balls is a notable example. The court of public opinion is expanding its remit and no-one seems to
be doing much to counteract this.
With Suarez, Terry and Shoesmith, we got the Dopamine-rush you get from swift justice. Children aren't safer as a result. Allegations of racism are now another disruptive tool that can be gamed wherever a celebrity is involved.
It's another reason for Chris to conclude that politicians are irrelevant now. Why bother standing for
office when unelected people with convening power can decide what
decisions you are going to make in advance and then harass you until you
The notion of 'the public interest' seems to have taken on a life of its own. Reversing this won't be easy. But it's possible.